Often mistaken for a terrible city of politicians, it’s time to start seeing D.C. and the greater DMV area as a hotbed of talented aspiring musicians. From rappers GoldLink and YBN Cordae to singers like Brent Faiyaz and Ari Lennox, the District better be ready for years of music that will push the envelope of what we have come to expect from the nation’s capital.
Already a given is the historical impact that D.C. has had on music. Giants of the industry Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, and Chuck Brown have obviously had their time in the spotlight, and while they may not be atop billboards, their influence is undying. Seeing these young artists mimic the steps of their musical forefathers is inspiring — let’s get into it.
Rappers – Pushing the City Forward with Wordplay and Fiery Bars
Although Wale’s spat with Maybach Music altered his career path, arguably for the worse, he’s still the original D.C. rapper in the modern era of rap. His bout with stardom didn’t last long, as hits “Ambition,” and “Chillin” seem far in the past. But Wale helped pave the way for D.C. rappers to thrive. His EPs this year, “Free Lunch” and “Self-Promotion,” prove he’s not washed up just yet.
Shy Glizzy represents the flipside- that the DMV rapper can exist in the trap/bling style instead of a more pronounced version of hip-hop that Wale produced. High-charting songs “White Girl” and “Awwsome” brought light to D.C.’s inner-city talent. And his feature on “Crew” is a perfect transition into the leader of the new DMV wave.
With a subdued, flexible delivery, GoldLink is making waves as the frontman for DC’s revival. While “Crew,” was awesome, the track rolled in streams more due to fellow DMV native Brent Faiyaz’s buttery hook. GoldLink is better appreciated on tracks where he exposes his clever lyrics and malleable flow: “Kokamoe Freestyle,” and the recent “Got Muscle,” are great examples of GoldLink’s ability to weave together lines that your average rapper just wouldn’t be able to handle. And on “Parable of the Rich Man,” Linkie ends the track with a Metro car pulling into the station. How D.C. is that? Gotta love an artist that reps so hard.
Innanet James, as I’ve covered before, is on the up-and-up. Currently on tour with Bas of Dreamville records, Innanet has been gaining traction with his high-pitched delivery and entertaining bars. His delivery is full of kinetic energy, excitedly bouncing around his flows like explosive kernels in a boiling pot. Just save the toppings because his flows are enough- peep “Bag,” and “Kept Clean.”
PG County natives IDK and YBN Cordae are a pair of darkly enticing rappers. Their bars are disrespectful, with in-your-face punchlines that’ll knock you flat and then make you apologize for crossing their first. They’re technically talented and come with ear-grabbing bars. Check out “Once Upon a Time” and “Target.”
Singers – Dreamy Vocals from the Red Line to Baltimore
Gaining traction from his hook on the platinum single “Crew,” Brent Faiyaz is on his way to becoming a household name in the hip-hop/R&B spheres. While his most accessible sound comes from melody, he’s also a capable rapper, as proven by recent projects “Sonder Son,” and “Lost.”
Ari Lennox, one of Dreamville’s newest signees, is making waves with her most recent album “PHO,” catching ears with Erykah Badu-esque composure and style. Her delivery is almost ethereal, as if those softly performed vocals could elevate into the breeze on a hot day. Only approach “Yeungling,” if you’re cool with it being stuck in your head all day.
Masego might be the most difficult to describe, just given his artistic diversity. He’s one of The Sideline’s Sleeper Picks of 2018, and for good reason. “Lady Lady,” is a compact exposition of his self-taught TrapHouseJazz, and while you’ve probably heard “Tadow,” Masego’s complex style of loops and inviting vocals get better on “Lady Lady.” With his incredible array of talent, the Virginia-raised singer/songwriter/instrumentalist will be topping charts soon enough.
While there are plenty more great artists from the DMV, these last seven are most representative of the city’s movement. Look for each to carve their own lane in the music industry with their unique approaches to music and love for their hometown.
Check out this iTunes playlist so that you can stay up to date on all the new happenings of DMV music!